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Bugis/Arab Street - Old and New Side by Side

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Photo of Arab Street carpets courtesy of the Singapore Tourism Board
Photo courtesy of the Singapore Tourism Board

Bugis

Bugis is the fashion capital for Singapore's teen population, but it wasn't always so clean. Named after the local sea pirates that used to terrorize sailors in the 19th century, Bugis was a seedy district until it was redeveloped in the 80s.

Today, the trendy young crowd flock to Parco Bugis Junction (200 Victoria Street), a department store filled with Japanese stores and brands. The mall is actually a section of shophouse-fronted street that has been covered over and air-conditioned.

Walk across Victoria Street to see the Bugis Village bazaar that sells shirts, tourist souvenirs, and (in one shop) sex toys. Walk further in the same direction and you'll cross a pedestrian mall at Albert Street and Waterloo Street, and further in the same direction you'll cross Bencoolen Street to reach Sim Lim Square (1 Rochor Canal Rd; Telephone: 6332 5839), a six-storey mall with 390,000 square feet of unrestricted computer shopping bliss. Buyer beware - the lower shops are known for gouging tourist shoppers, so be sure to check out the local prices first before striking a bargain.

Arab Street

Singapore's Malay residents find everything they need at Arab Street, and so will tourists in search of authentic Malay swag.

While moving from place to place in Arab Street, you'll be shopping in a bazaar-like environment, complete with mom-and-pop operations selling all sorts of exotica like rattan cradles, prayer mats, jewelry, and camel-skin bags. You'll need to haggle to get the most out of your money here.

Arab Street is full of textile shops stocking exquisite batiks and luxurious silks in every hue, including a few previously unknown to your nervous system. You can buy them by the meter, or ready-made as clothes and table linens. The textile shops see the most business before Ramadan, when Malay families have their baju kurungs made.

Haji Lane, parallel to Arab Street, caters to a younger crowd looking for the latest in street fashion and "pre-loved" second-hand clothes.

Nearest MRT Stops: The East-West Line's Bugis Station (EW12) links directly to Parco Bugis Junction, and is a few minutes away from Arab Street

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